OPINION: Should the government keep taxing tampons in the name of charity?

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Imagine all the things you could do if you were £15 million richer. The private island, the yacht, the new house… but unfortunately the Autumn Statement has put these plans on hold; it told us that women won’t be that much better off for a while. Why? Because we’re to keep chucking said amount at the government via the Tampon Tax. That’s right, it’s here to stay. But is it all doom and gloom?

The Tampon Tax –the money that women give the government every time they have a period. They are taxed as ‘luxury’ items in the UK, meaning they are non-essential (FYI, Jaffa Cakes and Bingo aren’t taxed as luxury). Whilst this tax can be up to 20% the government have kindly set sanitary products at a ‘reduced rate’ of 5%. So for every £1 we spend on tampons the government keeps 5p. This accumulates to that £15 million profit that the government gets every time our bodies tell us we are ready to create new life and keep human existence up.

The government have often cried that their hands are tied by the famous ‘red tape’ that is put in place by the European Union, where the VAT on these products originates from. But earlier this year there was controversy after the government promised to lobby the EU to reduce the tax. They announced they had the thumbs up from Brussels to give us sanitary towels at a 0% rate… but yet I’m still over paying for my tampons.

To try and make things better, last autumn George Osbourne announced a Tampon Tax Fund which promised that the profit made from our bodies would go into a pot which would then be donated to women’s charities. This received a mixed response, but Thursday’s announcement from his successor was even more controversial. The new Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced what he thought would be cheery news at the end of his first Autumn Statement saying that £3 million worth of the Tampon Tax will go into this fund. That is just a fifth of the profit, and is a small cry from what George Osbourne promised. Whilst donating to charity can never be bad, the organisations themselves have complained that the money is a drop in the ocean compared to how much they need and how much is generated from the tax.

But besides this, the problem is that women are still funding the pot. The money isn’t coming from government to support our issues because they believe helping women is important. Rather it is coming from a fund that every single woman pays in to once every four weeks, meaning that I’m paying for my counselling/contraception/advice/services which are supposed to be free. I’m not alone in believing I would rather save a few pounds on my luxury cotton wool and decide through personal factors and preferences which charity to give my money to, instead of being forced to donate my hard earned cash to whichever charities the government deem necessary.

But some do still see the benefits to this announcement. In fact Laura Coryton, the creator of the ‘Stop Taxing Periods. Period’ petition that got the initiative to government in the first place, praised the announcement saying: “That’s a lot of money. It will do a lot of good.” Of course this is no doubt true. And the fact that the government are even trying does says a lot. The tax is an issue that almost every European member state faces and Britain does lead the way when it comes to trying to make change. But the matter still stands that women earn less than men and are expected to spend more of that on essential items. Whilst men don’t pay tax on razors (god forbid they have a beard) a woman’s period comes with extra expense. And the reason? Probably just because we are women and social, political and economic injustice is the biggest issue we still face.

If a Jaffa Cake isn’t taxed as luxury, why should my cleanliness and decency be? The last time I walked down the street without a McVitie’s product there was no drama, but if I walked down the street without a tampon in during my period you can bet there would be some backlash. So for now we will just dream about that private island where tampons can be free for all.

Words by Chloe Gray

Saya and Hope are your lifestyle editors.

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